The First Version 1995 - Chapter 14
This is the very first typed version of Eric Olafson's Story (from 1995) . I put it here out of reguest of my oldest and first fan and reader, who wanted to re-read the first Version that made him start reading "Galactic Chronicles".
I think it is also shows the progress of the story and is a neat way for me to keep the old stuff as a searchable reference.
CHAPTER 8 WICHITAEdit
A week had passed since I left Nifleheim . I didn’t even leave the bus on Holstein. I planned to reach Blue Moon where I could get a fast clipper connection to Terra. We where approaching Wichita, the last stop before the bus would reach Blue Moon. The attendant robot made the usual speech:” Dear passengers we are approaching Wichita We will land at Topeka Port in 15 minutes. All passengers with destinations beyond Kansas System are asked to debark as well. This bus will terminate at Topeka Port for repairs.. Passengers are asked to gather their personal belongings and prepare for debarking. Gray Lines Incorporate cannot be held responsible for items left behind. Passengers with tickets beyond Wichita will receive Portel vouchers for free lodging until a new connection can be made.” The bus was nearly empty. I only counted four other passengers in this section and one of them seemed angry:” Robot I have an appointment to keep! How long will we be stuck here?” “This unit has not received a time estimate on the delay, Sir. Gray Lines maintains a staffed counter at the terminal. Please inquire there.”
The Port Terminal was only slightly bigger than the one on Nifleheim . The passengers of my flight numbered only twenty four including me and when I reached the counter the human female behind it smiled with a bored expression in her eyes.” Gray Lines apologizes for any inconvenience this delay may cause you Sir. Here is your voucher for the Holiday Inn Portel. We expect a 16 hour delay.” I smiled back.” No problem. I am not in a hurry.” I also thanked her for the voucher and went to the Shopping concourse where I went to Arthur’s for a burger. To my surprise the burger was quite delicious and tasted fresh. Since I was the only customer and there was a person server instead of a robot, I commented on the fresh taste. The young human grinned widely over his freckled face.” That’s because we don’t reconstitute here, we grill fresh on an old fashioned flame grill. We’re quite proud of that!” He pointed to one of the large windows. Outside beyond the space port where huge pens filled with brown animals as far as one could see. “ That’s only a month production out there. We ship ten thousand cows a day to anywhere in the Galaxy! That’s why our meats are fresh.” He brought me a second burger on the house and after this short lecture on Wichita’s economy I went to the Portel left my bag in my room and decided to tour the town, maybe they had something worthwhile seeing. So I stepped through the automatic doors and went outside and it hit me like a hammer! The stench in the air literally took my breath away! Someone laughed:” It takes a while but you get used to it!” A man wearing a dark elegant business suit, holding a brief case had walked through the doors just like me. He looked extremely well groomed , wore dark eye glasses and had a little moustache above his lips. “What is that awful smell?” He pointed towards the animal pens. “Feedlots, hundred thousand cows, pigs and sheep. They all poop and pass gas.” “How can people stand this?” I asked. “they don’t even smell it anymore and for some it is the smell of home. For me it is the smell of money!” “Pekunia Non Olet, eh?” The man laughed :” It seem the academy still teaches classic Latin quotes.” So what is the Fleet doing here on Wichita? Opening a recruiting office or something like that?” “No I am just a Midshipman with time to burn. I am on leave and the Space bus is delayed till tomorrow.” “Well that explains it somewhat. I am Brian Solis, Argro-product purchaser for SII. I come here a lot. If you want I show you the few things worth seeing here.” “I am Eric Olafson from Nifleheim . You don’t mind?” He waved:” Heck no. I am always glad to break the routine a little. I know Nifleheim I go there once in awhile to purchase sea weed and fish.” He gestured me to follow and we walked past the taxi stand and underneath the Hertz Project-a-Sign he pointed to a new Chrysler Land Speeder.” That be the one. Go get in, have you eaten?” “Yes I had two burgers at Mc Swines.” He swiped his ID implant under the reader and the Chrysler doors swung open and a voice thanked him for choosing Hertz. The Interior still smelled new and was upholstered with fine leather. He sat behind the controls and frowned. “ Well Mc Swine’s isn’t bad here, but you should have waited. Cattle Baron Grill in downtown Topeka has the best steaks in the entire sector if not the galaxy and I should know I go to a lot of Agro producing planets.” “Sorry.’ Was all I could think of saying. He laughed again.” I didn’t mean it like that Eric . You going to be hungry later for sure. First I need to do some business. If you don’t mind tagging along.” “No I don’t mind. I’ve got nothing better to do.” “Great. We’re going to Jesus Hernandez, biggest Cattle rancher on the planet. The Hernandez Hacienda raises free range cattle the old style. No growing vats, no cloning. His beef is in high demand.” Brian steered the speeder to a higher altitude, skimming over muddy terrain and seemingly endless herds of brown animals. “So what is it you do exactly? Buying those animals?” “I am sure you heard about Schwartz Intergalactic Industries.” “There’s probably no one in the galaxy that hasn’t. the biggest Mega Corp there is.” He nodded proudly.” Indeed, I am the Chief Purchaser for the Agricultural product branch. I like to do my work in the field and not from a desk. It’s also a good way of quality control.” “I thought SII owns a lot of planets and makes its own products. I remember meeting a Midshipman from Harvest 12.” “Oh SII owns quite a few planets and we also have bio engineering factories making food the modern way. We are the leading manufacturer of Nanite Food processors, but the Galaxy is a large place and the demand for food is staggering, especially for natural foods.” --“”— We meet with the Rancher. He was a joyful character talking nothing but beef and the problems and challenges associated with that business. On a table where dozens of plates with fresh grilled and prepared beef and another one held raw slabs of red beef. Brian tasted small pieces of the beef and so did I. I was a fish eater all my life but I had to agree this stuff was truly delicious. The meeting ended with Brian ordering 2 million heads of beef and paying for it right there and then. I never seen so much money changing hands.” After that we went back to the speeder and Brian said.” Now it’s time for the sight seeing tour.” The first stop was a valley between two mountain ranges. Huge strange objects where strewn all around. I immediately recognized them as bones of very large animals. He explained:” This is Bone Yard Valley. There are millions of these enormous skeletons, found nowhere else on this world. They are not that old , but no one has ever seen one of these animals alive. It’s the Wichita mystery.” We landed and walked between the towering bones.” How big where these animals?” I asked.” I’ve seen Tyranno Fin skeletons, these aren’t much smaller!” “We going to meet a friend of mine who can answer those questions much better. He belongs to your organization.” A large rock formation not to far away turned out to have a door and a window! As we approached a very beautiful woman with long red hair wearing a tight fitting green jump suit stepped out with a big smile on her pink lips.” Brian are you bringing me the assistant I am waiting for?” He smiled back.” Probably not.” “Well step right on in. I just made some real coffee.” The rock formation had been hollowed out, probably by cutting laser. It was one large room separated into a living area and a lab set up with work tables, multi task consoles and shelves with instruments. The woman raised her hands.” Welcome to Exobiology Auxiliary lab Wichita, Science Corps installation Three million three hundred and four.” From a shelf she took three ceramic mugs with the Science Corps logo and poured coffee. Then she smiled at me:” I didn’t even ask if you actually drink coffee.” “I do, black with sugar, if you have any.” She placed a Plasti-tainer on the table. “All the sugar you want!” Brian said:” Brenda makes the best coffee this side of the Sagittarius Arm.” She grinned.” I should, I’m from Seattle as you know.” I sipped and had to agree. The coffee was strong and had a invigorating flavor. Brenda looked at me:” I see you’re a Midshipman and from the looks of it a first year academy freshman. I assume you are not the assistant they promised me.” “Sorry Ma’am. I didn’t even know there was a lab here. I am stranded on Wichita till tomorrow and Brian sort of picked me up to show me the place.” “It’s just as well. I don’t really need an assistant anyway, who knows if I would get along with him or her. I choose this assignment because I like to be by myself.” “You are here all by yourself?” I asked. “Most of the time, I do have two Multi task bots keeping me company and I go to Topeka a lot.” “You are researching those bones?” “Yes I am here to gather data and solve the Wichita mystery of the Land walkers.” “What exactly is the mystery?” “Wichita is a fertile garden world with all the right conditions to support Terran life forms. It was discovered 200 years ago, surveyed and cleared for colonization. Some of the bones out there are less than 50 years old, yet no one has ever seen one of these animals alive. There are no other bone yards like this anywhere on the planet as far as we know. The largest animal remains we found are 70 meters long and we estimate the beast to weigh over 200 tons when it was alive, such a life form would be hard to miss especially since this world has no extensive forests and the oceans are quite shallow. There is simply no explanation why those bones are here.” “Was any DNA found to reconstruct one?” “Yes, the main lab on Venus grew one out of the DNA but it didn’t survive long. It simply died.” “What was the cause of death?” “The being simply wanted to die and did.” “What are your findings or theories? Maybe they are not native to this world!” Her smile vanished and she became serious.” That is exactly what we think. The animals DNA does not match the DNA pattern of any other life form native to this planet.” I tried to picture the galactic map in my mind and said:” We’re pretty deep in Union space even fifty years ago. There are no intelligent space faring cultures anywhere near, or are there?” “Not to our knowledge, but there are large areas of Union space we haven’t really surveyed yet. Science Corps established this post to count and research these bones and basically wait for any new arrivals.” She sighed and added.” Nothing happened so far.” “Must be a pretty boring assignment then.” “No not really. I am also cataloging local life forms and do research on them. Besides I like it. It is stress free and I can spend time on my hobbies.” She took a sip of her coffee and Brian refilled his cup. Brenda leaned back.” So how is the Navy life treating you? Have you decided yet what route you going to pursue?” “Basic training and the first year wasn’t as I expected it to be to be honest, but perhaps the second year is going to be better. I am not sure what direction I am going.” Brian interrupted.” What does that direction thing mean?” Brenda explained:” After the first year where they teach you all the basics you go on to year two where you decide what job you will do in the navy. You know logistics, personnel, weapons, security and a thousand other specialty fields.” Brian spooned sugar in his cup and stirred it with measured moves.” Well if you decide the Navy isn’t for you there is always room for a bright person at SII. There are thousands of careers to choose from just as well and we pay a whole lot better. SII has a fleet of space ships second only to the navy.” “I was considering that, but I just don’t want to fly a freighter on established routes.” “Oh you are mistaken, SII doesn’t have just freighters. We have Corporate security Units that could easily go toe to toe with any of your battle ships and we have research vessels surveying areas of space that no one has ever been before.” Brenda looked at her wrist unit.” Its almost time for lunch and I was planning to go into Topeka for a nice steak and do some shopping. Why don’t you two come along?” Brian finished his second cup and said:” Sounds like an idea. I bragged to Eric about the steaks they serve at the Cattle Baron Grill.” ---“”--- Topeka I found out was an underground city, below all those Cattle pens and beef processing plants. Down here the air was clean and didn’t stink. Cattle Baron Grill was part of a quite large shopping mall and the steaks they served there where probably the best thing I ever ate right after a fresh Tyranno Fin filet. It was juicy and the flavor was truly amazing. They served the steak on a big wooden cutting board with potatoes, green beans and gravy. I was hard pressed to finish half and could not even consider to try the Cherry cobbler, Brian recommended. After the meal Brian said.” This pretty much concludes the sight seeing tour of Wichita, unless you like to see more cattle.” “No I think I’ve seen all the cattle I care for to see. Unless they are in form of a steak like these in front of me on a plate!” He laughed.” Right you are!” Brenda was just finishing her meal:” So what brings you to Wichita in the first place? Why aren’t you home?” I lowered my head;” Because I don’t really have one. I was born on Nifleheim but I am not welcome there anymore. I just came from there and decided to travel a bit, check out Earth.” “Both Brian and I are from Earth and it is a place every human should visit once. Lot’s to see there for sure.” Brian had ordered him a glass of whiskey and tingled the ice cubes.” Nifleheim is a cold world alright. Lots of ancient traditions, it actually surprises me to see a Neo Viking away from that place and being in the navy. I always had the impression Neo Vikings rarely left their world.” I frowned.” I am the only one I know of ever to sign up for the Navy and only a handful left and went off world.” Brenda pushed her board away :”Can I ask you why you decided to leave?” “My father and I don’t get along and there was no future for me in any of the traditional occupations.” She nodded.” I can relate to that, when I decided to become a woman, my parents didn’t like that much either and I haven’t been back or talked to them.” I coughed and tried to hide my surprise.” You have been a man once?” “In a biological physical sense, yes, but I always wanted to be female. My parents didn’t gene check me before I was born and then where to busy with their careers to notice my desire so they never opted for psycho surgery while they had the power to decide for me.” Brian looked at me sideways.” Does this shock you? You know I am homosexual. I know this is very rare in these days but I am and I don’t want it any other way!” I blushed and shook my head.” No it does not bother me or shock me.” He laughed:” No worries. I haven’t picked you up for any adventures. I am happily married to a very handsome man for the last 20 years.” I blushed some more.” I wasn’t even thinking that. It’s just I am a lot like Brenda and that is why I had to leave.” Brenda leaned forward and placed her hand on mine.” I had no idea. Have you decided what are you going to do?” “No, I am very confused about the entire thing. About my feelings and what I should do. Part of me thinks it is so wrong and I am sick and should seek a way to cure me from this desire but whenever I think about psycho surgery I get doubts.” “It’s a rare thing nowadays and usually treated either before birth or at an early stage. But it is not all that uncommon and I too felt confused. The best advice I can give is to be yourself. Our society does not discriminate against folks like us and your career in the navy will be unaffected no matter what you decide. Have you ever tried to live a woman for a while? That usually helps to make a decision much easier. Then you will know what side you like better.” “No I haven’t thought of that. I was always repressing it.” Brian said:” Well fate brought you to the right place then. Topeka is the capital of Cross gender issues, believe it or not! They have the annual Cross Dress Convention here and thousands like you or Brenda come here. There is the Drag Queen Pageant and the Dorothy Festival, very famous and broadcast on GalNet every year!” “Why here?” Brian shrugged.” I don’t know for sure, but I think one of the early Cattle Barons was like you and used lots of his money to start these traditions and now they make almost as much money on those events as they make on cattle.” Brenda got up.” Come I show you the Costume Emporium!” Brian got up as well.” I think I leave you two now. I have more business meetings.” He took my hand :”It was nice meeting you Eric . If you ever make it to Earth and I am there look me up!” “Thank you for the tour, Brian.” He handed me his business card and said:” Thank you for your company. Here is my card my contact info is on it. I am serious call me one of these days and tell me how you’re doing, or if you decide to try SII for a career.” Brian kissed Brenda on the cheek, waved at me and left the restaurant. The waiter told us Brian had already paid for everything so I followed her into the shopping mall to a large window front and the Project-a-sign read” Costume Emporium- Everyone you dream of being we can do!” A Robot Mannequin was wearing an old fashioned looking dress in checkered blue and white , red glittering shoes. “That is Dorothy Gale form the pre Astro 2D classic Wizard of Oz.” Explained Brenda. “And who is Dorothy?” “Oh you don’t know? You simply must watch that show sometimes. It is what they called a movie.” “Oh I know movies. I know many who love to watch those ancient story tapes.” “Well this particular one was made in 1939. There where a dozen remakes and most recently a Virtu-Immerse production, but none of those can compare with that original. The character of Dorothy with the pinafore, those sparkly red shoes and pig tails is an icon for cross dressers for a very long time. They hold a Dorothy Contest here in Topeka and I kid you not, there are over 600,000 coming each year all dressed like that!” “I thought folks like us are rare.” “What are 600,000 to a Union population of 5 Trillons?” “It does look nice.” “Why don’t you go in and get one for yourself?” A strange feeling of excitement and expectation came over me as I agreed and entered the store. A woman wearing a tinny red dress barley covering her voluptuous curves came from behind a curtain and smiled :”What can I do for you?” Brenda answered for me.” Can you get him a Dorothy costume , the super deluxe version with all the extras.” “But of course! We have quite a few, do you want it complete with bio flex mask, body shaper and Robo-Toto?” I nodded.” Yes all of it, but I don’t think I need a robotic dog.” “Step right in here. The Auto Dresser will take measurements and fabricate the desired costume. You are familiar with Auto Dressers?” “Yes I am in the Navy.” The Auto Dresser looked different from the navy models. This one was blinking and had colorful panels, but it was doing the same thing. I undressed and stepped in. robotic arms and nanites combined stock items and raw materials to the desired garment right onto my body. I felt constricted and something really tight took shape around me. Then it was done and I stepped out to see the result in a mirror and what I saw took my breath. It was as if something in my soul had broken and now came like a flood to the surface. I saw a young beautiful woman in the mirror. Any man would have looked ridiculous in a get up like this but on an female it looked simply charming and quite sexy in an innocent sort of way. Perhaps this was the allure that made this particular character so popular even after over 3600 years. “How do you feel?” Said Brenda quietly. “It should be wrong but it feels so right! Somehow this is me and what I was now seems more like a mask than this one.” She smiled warmly. “ I am glad you feel that way. Now let’s show the world. We need to shop for the girl in you.” The costume wasn’t cheap but I had enough. Walking outside first I felt everyone was staring at me but it seemed I was lighter and I couldn’t get enough seeing my reflection. Two hour later I was 5000 credits poorer and loaded with bags and realized I had no home or place to put all these things. I was on a planet I had to leave soon and there was no telling where I would end up. Brenda noticed my sudden change right away.” What is the matter. You seemed to have fun and now you look as sad as a weeping willow.” I told her what I just realized, she listened and sighed. “No wonder you are depressed. Well you could leave all these things with me and I send them to you once you know, but if I where you, I’d go back and confront your father. If I understand your situation right, you are still the first born no matter what , besides there are certain federal laws, Nifleheim or not. You are now a member of the Armed forces and you can ask for enforcement.” What she was saying made sense. I was going to be an officer in the United Stars Navy and would face dangers much more severe than a self righteous father. Yes I was entitled to my share. Father would have to pay me out and with the money I could find me a new home somewhere else.” You are right! I am going back and demand what is mine!”